But in 2020, something new happened: The confluence of a pandemic that drove everyone indoors and shut down many restaurants, combined with many Americans having a newfound excess of free time to cook, nest, and decorate, has created a moment for these cookware brands to shine. People have been buying cookware from brands like Clifton, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, and All-Clad for decades; they were typically sold through big-box retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, and Williams Sonoma.
For Great Jones co-founder Sierra Thwart, it was about being able to easily find high-quality products without having to go to multiple retailers and sift through dozens of options. Our Place co-founder and CEO Shiva Shahid also felt there were too many cookware products required for different purposes, and wanted to make the process easier.
The company has built a legion of devoted fans who anticipate launches of new colors, and their signature mugs have become so popular they’ve inspired their own Instagram hashtag (#Them). Julian Thomas, a 30-year-old communications' consultant in New York, told Vox that although he spent the first few months of the pandemic relying on takeout, he eventually decided he had to start cooking more than the months wore on, so he bought Our Place’s “Always Pan” in September because of its multi functionality and aesthetics.
“I don’t have a lot of space in my NYC apartment, so I wanted to avoid a full 8-12 piece cooking set,” Thomas, who describes himself as a “sucker for aesthetics,” told Vox by email. Caraway founder Jordan Nathan said that in the few months immediately after the pandemic hit the US in March, the company saw close to a 300 percent increase in sales.
And East Fork CMO Connie Matisse told Vox that March 2020 was their biggest sales month in company history, twice as big as the previous holiday season in November 2019. Now they periodically open up sales for preorders, close them when they sell the exact amount of product they felt they could make, and ship items to customers within six to eight weeks.
They offer their products in a range of bright colors and pastel shades previously never seen in the cookware category, and as a result, they have become ubiquitous on the platform. Nathan says he found that the color options in traditional cookware were lacking; he wanted to offer a broader range of colors that aligned with the way modern consumers think about designing their homes today, and he wanted cookware to be something that fit into their overall home design aesthetic.
“We live in small apartments, and you want your kitchenware to look good on your stove because that’s often the only place you can store it,” Thwart said. Instagram used to be a place where we curated only the most glamorous moments of our lives, like parties, vacations, and dining out at restaurants.
In addition to curated sets that include the key items beginners need to get started in the kitchen, these newcomers sell individual pieces, knives, and more. By cutting through the clutter in the marketplace and eliminating the middleman, they attempt to offer stylish and “thoughtful” products free of markups.
We’ve found that three brands, Great Jones, Made In, and Risen, have led the charge. Founded by two childhood friends and named after Julia Child’s legendary cookbook editor, Judith Jones, Great Jones is a fashionable cookware company whose mission is to empower you to cook.
The Great Jones skillets and saucepans have a core of aluminum, fully clad (or covered) with shiny stainless steel. This combines aluminum’s ability to distribute heat evenly and stainless steel’s resistance to denting, discoloration, and interaction with food.
The Dutch oven, playfully named The Duchess,” is cast iron with a shiny gray enamel surface inside and a matte enamel finish outside that comes in seven colors, including black, white, and a dusty millennial pink. Advertisement of the handles are stainless steel, but they’ve been polished to give them the bronze color that stainless steel develops over time, and they aren’t attached with metal fasteners called rivets.
The Family Style set includes one of each of the company’s offerings, including an 8 ½-inch ceramic nonstick skillet and a 10 ¼-inch skillet with a lid, 3- and 8-quart saucepans with lids, and a 6 ¾-quart oval enameled cast iron Dutch oven, available in seven colors. Even on Amazon, you’ll pay about $375 for a comparable-sized oval Le Crest Dutch oven.
That’s largely due to the fact that the handles are a different color from the body and aren’t riveted on as they are usually in commercial cookware. While The Duchess is pretty, I personally prefer the glossier finish found on most enameled Dutch ovens.
The Great Jones skillets conduct heat evenly from their bases to their sidewalls. This means you won’t have to keep rearranging burgers to brown them uniformly or stir gravy to keep it from scorching at the point where the bottom meets the sides.
As the Dutch oven is oval shaped, the sides hang over the burners, resulting in an uneven heat. You’ll need to regularly rearrange pieces of meat for a beef stew, say, and if you’re trying to achieve a steady simmer, you’re better off using the oven than a burner.
While the ceramic nonstick finish made clean-up easy, we did get some sticking when we fried eggs. Advertisement you’ve jumped on the induction cook top trend, this line will work for you.
However, when we pan grilling a steak resulted in burnt-on grease that required considerable scrubbing with Bar Keepers Friend to remove. The Great Jones website only has five reviews, with just one customer giving less than a 5-star rating for hot handles.
With the inclusion of an oversized cast iron Dutch oven, this collection is a real bargain. It also contains a large 8-quart saucepan, an essential for boiling pasta, that’s rarely included in a set.
Best of all, the stainless clad pots and pans distribute heat well from the bottom up the sides, giving you even browning and simmering without scorching. Anyone who’s a serious cook will want to supplement the collection with a larger 12-inch fry or sauté pan for skillet dinners.
As with Great Jones, the aluminum promotes even heating while the stainless steel protects against denting, keeps the cookware looking good, and prevents the aluminum from leaching into food and turning it gray. The Made In Starter Kit consists of a 10-inch fry pan and 2- and 5-quart saucepans with stainless steel lids.
Beautifully designed of brushed stainless steel, Made In looks like it would be at home in a commercial kitchen. The handles feel wonderful in the hand, and they’re riveted onto the body, so it’s unlikely that they are ever going to fall off.
However, foods like scrambled eggs or tomato sauce can accumulate around the rivets and make cleaning harder. The fry pan has the traditional sloped sides that make lifting out wedges of frittata or sliding out a crêpe an easy task.
The skillet conducted heat evenly not only on the bottom but also up its sides, illustrating the benefit of clad cookware. When we cooked spaghetti sauce in the 2-quart saucepan, it stayed at an almost constant temperature.
The lid provided a nice tight fit on the saucepan so rice came out moist and fluffy. We could turn the pan over to release pancakes and fried eggs and virtually wipe it clean afterward.
After searing a steak, we used a good amount of elbow grease and Bar Keepers Friend to get the skillet looking pristine again. A booklet with thorough care instructions and basic cooking advice comes with the cookware.
Made In also makes carbon steel skillets, wok, and roasting pans, as well as larger, more expensive sets and cutlery. The Made In Starter Kit currently has 1,589 reviews, with 97% of them giving the set five stars.
And while the 5-quart saucepan is useful for small batches of soups and stews and boiling water for pasta, we’d recommend supplementing the set with a 6-quart Dutch oven and an 8-quart stockpot. Like the other brands we tested, Risen’s skillets and saucepans are made of several layers of aluminum clad in stainless steel.
The aluminum gives the pieces even heat distribution while the stainless steel strengthens them, keeps them looking handsome, and prevents the aluminum from leaching into your eggs or cream sauce and turning it unpleasantly gray. The Starter Cookware Set consists of a 10-inch skillet, a 3-quart sauté pan and a 3-quart saucepan.
The Risen skillet's straight sides make it fine for pancakes, but less convenient for eggs. We noticed immediately that Risen is heavier than the other brands, which meant it conducted heat more slowly and took longer to preheat.
On the sauté pan, there’s a helper handle that is, well, helpful as this cookware is heavy to begin with. As the handles are attached with rivets, which gives the cookware a professional look and should make them exceptionally durable.
An Italian chicken stew simmered slowly and steadily in the 3-quart sauté pan. A sirloin strip steak seared perfectly evenly to a golden brown without any overcooking.
As the cookware is oven safe up to 500 °F, you could make a skillet mac ‘n cheese and then give it a crispy topping by running it under the broiler. Like just about all stainless-steel cookware, it develops stains from pan grilling that take a bit of work and applications of a cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend to remove.
Also, available from Risen are larger, more expensive sets, as well as knives and open stock including stainless steel and nonstick skillets in 8-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes. Risen is high quality cookware that compares with All-Clad in performance but costs considerably less.
The Starter Cookware Set is aptly named because, before long, anyone who cooks for more than two people am going to need larger pans for boiling spaghetti water, braising stews, or making soup. Its pieces don’t scream, “I am a chef,” which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you find attractive.
If you want a pro-look, either Made In or Risen will fill the bill, but if you’re going to do a lot of cooking, you’ll need to invest in more than the basic set. Generally speaking, I don’t have the patience for careful measurements and attention to detail required for baking.
Founded in 2018 by Sierra Thwart and Maddie Models, Great Jones cookware is designed to empower home cooks and professionals alike. After a successful launch of The Duchess, the brand continued to build out their full line of cookware with its take on the stock pot (Big Deal, $95), frying pan (Small Fry, $50), and more recently, the sheet pan (Holy Sheet, $35).
My Quiché baked evenly in the Sweetie Pie and once appropriately cooled, removing a slice was incredibly easy. ADVERTISEMENTClean-up was a breeze because the Quiché was delicious (compliments to the chef), so no leftovers, and because there were no tough-to-remove food spots left from the baking process.
The recipe I chose called for a light coating of olive oil on the bottom of the pan. Even with all the gooey cheese going on in this dish (a white lasagna featuring ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan), I was once again able to remove a finished slice with relative ease.
Because of the popularity of this brand, Great Jones products have a tendency to sell out quickly and can come with a higher price tag than their competitors. If you’re already a fan of Great Jones and you’ve been waiting for them to dig deeper into baking, these products are for you.
But while you scroll through the never-ending rabbit hole of genius kitchen gadgets, you might be surprised to find a plethora of new direct-to-consumer, high-quality cookware brands that will make you feel like a star of “Top Chef.” While we’ve been obsessing over some of the most popular DTC brands like Away for modernized suitcases, Wary Parker for convenient prescription eyewear, Casper for mattresses in a box and Ever lane for chic wardrobe basics, there were also several new cookware companies popping up under our noses the whole time, and here, we’re highlighting our favorites.
For instance, Great Jones was founded by two women who have been childhood friends for 20 years, and Field Company was started by two brothers who named their business after their grandmother. No matter your expertise, Caraway specializes in offering cookware that is made with non-toxic surfaces and can easily be organized in your cabinets.
While Material Kitchen is known for its cookware like its coated pan, which uses a one-of-a-kind stainless steel alloy built around a core of copper, the brand also has a variety of utensils and knives that you can buy as bundles. Founded by BFFs Sierra Thwart and Maddy Models in 2018, Great Jones is that cookware company you’ve probably seen taking over your Instagram feed but for good reason.
Not only are we obsessed with its minimalist-inspired matte black hue, but if you start with one thing from Equal Parts, let it be the best-selling ceramic-coated Big Pan. There’s nothing better than sharing a meal with friends, and one of Our Place’s main mission is to create products “that connect people over home-cooking.” Not only will you find Our Place’s best-selling Always Pan that does the work of eight pieces of traditional cookware, the company also focuses on offering kitchen items that help bring people closer together.
Stackable dishes and cups that’ll instantly make your dinner parties seem fancier while also keeping your cabinet more organized. What makes this cookware special though is that the brand prides itself on sourcing and using materials from family-owned manufacturers in the U.S., France and Italy to craft quality items you can use over and over.
For example, blue carbon steel pans have always been a French staple, but when Made In decided to put them on the radar in the U.S., the company found a carbon steel factory that’s been making the pans for almost 300 years, and now it’s one of the company’s best-selling items. You won’t see those retail markups, and all of its items were crafted from hundreds of cooks’ feedback.
Started by two brothers who inherited 1930s cast iron pans from their grandmother’s family (who the brand is named after), Field Company was born after the two began obsessing with learning how to restore and refurbish vintage cast iron pans. Now the company specializes in perfecting the cast iron skillet by making it a smoother, lighter and easier-to-use version of this classic American kitchen tool.
It has a natural non-stick surface, is superior when it comes to heat retention and since it has a long lifespan, it just might become that family heirloom you pass down to your grandkids, too.